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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

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Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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December 15, 2006

Newspaper Chain Goes Creative Commons: GateHouse Media Rolls CC Over 96 Newspaper Sites

Over the weekend, the Watertown TAB of Watertown, Massachusetts, revamped its website. The result is, for now, strikingly bloglike: a wide center column with items in reverse chronological order. And at the very bottom, a small silver badge with a line of text that reads: "Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license."

Special to PressThink
by Lisa Williams

That little badge is news. The TAB is owned by GateHouse Media, a newspaper conglomerate that owns 75 daily and 231 weekly newspapers. And the TAB isn’t the only paper that got a silver CC badge this week. Without fanfare, the company is rolling out Creative Commons licenses covering nearly all of the 121 dailies and weeklies they own in Massachusetts. The CC license now covers 96 of the company’s TownOnline sites, which are grouped within a portal for their many Eastern Massachusetts newspapers.

“I don’t know of any other newspaper or any MSM site for that matter, publishing under CC,” said Howard Owens, director of digital publishing for Gatehouse, in a comment on the TAB’s blog. “It’s really not a big change from how a lot of newspaper sites handle content — free non-commercial use, but generally only if you ask. This removes the middle man of asking, because now it’s explicitly stated that free non-commercial use is permitted.”

Mia Garlick, chief council of the Creative Commons Foundation, concurs: she’s not aware of any newspaper chains or major papers that are releasing content under CC. “For a major publisher with significant numbers of people reading to be doing this is great.”

“For newspapers to give up copyright is a remarkable step,” says Dan Kennedy, who teaches journalism at Northeastern University and is a longtime watcher of the Boston media scene. “We all understand that it’s okay to link to them, but this seems to say that it’s also okay to copy and paste entire articles. Is that what they want?”

GateHouse’s decision to CC license its content may be a response to the cut-and-paste world of weblogs, which frequently quote and point to newspaper stories. Making it easier — and legal — for bloggers to quote stories at length means that bloggers are pointing their audience at the newspaper. Getting a boost in traffic from weblogs may have an impact on online advertising revenue, and links from weblogs also have an impact on how high a site’s pages appear in search results from search engines such as Google. Higher traffic, and higher search engine rankings build a site’s ability to make money on online ads.

CC licensing is only one of three actions taken by GateHouse that point in the direction of greater openness. The CC badge appeared on the company’s TownOnline sites this weekend as part of a sweeping overhaul whose main objective is to move the sites firmly into the two=way web. The newspapers now under CC licensing are gathered together under the umbrella of Both TownOnline and another GateHouse property,, feature user-generated content.

Kennedy worries that user-generated content may mean fewer newsroom jobs: “As interested as I am in Wicked Local, it’s coming online at a time when GateHouse and other newspaper companies are cutting jobs. I hope Wicked Local amounts to a lot more than simply a way for its corporate owner to load up on cheap and free content.”

In a departure from Wicked Local, where commercial software was used to open up the site to user-submitted content, GateHouse is using the open-source web framework Zope as the backbone for the TownOnline operations. Going to open source has obvious “the price is right” advantages, but may also confer stability: small software companies fail at rates comparable to restaurants, a famously tough business. Such business failures leave a software company’s customers stranded on a platform that won’t be updated as time goes on, and which they can’t update themselves, since they don’t have access to the source code.

Sharing content, letting non-professionals submit content, and connecting with a global network of open-source tinkerers reveal a picture of a firm that’s open to the wide world of the web. That doesn’t sound like your average media company, whose value is based on control of unique content, content whose value is boosted by exclusivity, not by contributions from Just Anybody. But instead of plugging leaks, GateHouse has taken out a Creative Commons can opener and put a hole the size of the Internet in the side of Battleship Content.

Yet investors like the sound of what GateHouse is doing, maybe because it sounds a bit more like YouTube than Tribune Co.

GateHouse, which went public in October, saw its stock rise 20 percent in the first day of trading: investors were clearly treating GateHouse like an internet stock, not a newspaper play. The run-up in price made GateHouse the most valuable newspaper company in America, leading Dow Jones, Scripps, The New York Times Company and far above cellar-dwellers Gannett and Tribune. GateHouse’s move towards open source, open licensing, and open conversations is the biggest experiment to date in whether a media company with open source ambitions can walk hand in hand with Wall Street.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Guest writer Lisa Williams runs, a news and community site for Watertown, Massachusetts. User generated content at the Watertown TAB represents head-to-head competition for H2otown. Lisa works for the Center for Citizen Media and has a number of new-media related projects, which you can read about in her bio.

Lisa Williams, If I Didn’t Build it, They Wouldn’t Come: Citizen Journalism is Discovered (Alive) in Watertown, MA. PressThink, Nov. 14, 2005.

Charlene Li, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, responds to the CC licensing of TownOnline sites. She’s got a special perspective, since she was one of the principal architects of the TownOnline sites in the 90’s:

It’s pretty cool. Note that they are using the most restrictive of the Creative Commons license. The license is to freely share the content — as long as there is attribution, and the use is non-commercial. The right to create derivative works is not allowed. This is how CC describes this license:

“This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.:

This is all very reasonable and recognizes that in an online world, the copyright claim for “all rights reserved” doesn’t really work. So kudos to them for doing this.

Howard Owens, now director of digital publishing at GateHouse, previously served at the Bakersfield Californian, home to three notable hyperlocal experiments: Bakotopia, The Northwest Voice, and the Southwest Voice. He’s advertising his Bakersfield home for sale via his blog. GateHouse HQ is in Fairfield, NY.

Dan Kennedy teaches journalism at Northeastern University and writes about the Boston media scene at his blog, Media Nation.

In a pre-IPO buying spree fueled by capital from Fortress Investment Group, GateHouse acquired the Community Newspaper Company from Herald Media, which owns the Boston Herald. Only a few weeks later, the company snapped up Enterprise News Media, which owned two dailies and 11 non-dailies south of Boston. Here’s a timeline of the deals. Fortress has some colorful clients: they own pop king Michael Jackson’s debt.

GateHouse is using the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license. As of this writing, there’s also a Gatehouse copyright notice in the footer, presumably a forgotten artifact of the site overhaul. In a comment on the TAB’s blog, Owens confirmed that they are going with CC licensing.

From GateHouse’s prospectus: “We operate in what is sometimes referred to as the ‘hyper-local’ or community market within the media industry. Media companies that serve this segment provide highly focused local content and advertising that is generally unique to each market they serve.”

Enterprise NewsMedia, which was bought by GateHouse in May, operated two dailies and 11 weeklies south of Boston. They had their own hyperlocal experiment: Wicked Local, whose name is a nod to the local vernacular that uses the word “wicked” as an intensifier. Wicked Local combines user-submitted stories, events, and photos with staff content from the Old Colony Memorial newspaper of Plymouth, MA, and added unique online features like the Wicked Local Girl videoblog created by Courtney Hollands, who’s moved on to a new position at Gatehouse Media. Bob Kempf, who helped build Wicked Local, now works for, the online spinoff of the Boston Globe. They just rolled out a new local search tool.

TownOnline adopted the local search and user-submitted photo platform Wicked Local uses, but chose open source content management framework Zope; Wicked Local currently uses a blog/community platform package created by Prospero Technologies. Wicked Local allows user-submitted stories, events, and photos; TownOnline is photos-only, for now.

Three of the most successful efforts to wrap an online community around a traditional news organization websites have something in common: the news organizations that sponsored them are now software companies. The Lawrence Journal-World now sells Ellington, the software they developed to create; you can buy Participata, the social-networking software behind Bakotopia, from the Bakersfield Californian; and the photo platform you see on Bluffton Today was created by Morris Digital Works, a subsidiary of the company that owns Bluffton Today and many other news organizations.

In choosing Zope, GateHouse has the opportunity to follow suit and become a software provider. Zope itself is open source, but the Zope license does allow people to build products on top of the Zope platform without assigning copyright to the Zope Corporation.

I share Derek Powazek’s aversion to the term “user-generated content.” He says: “They’re words that creepy marketeers use. They imply something to be commodified, harvested, taken advantage of. They’re words I used to hear a lot while doing community consulting, and always by people who wanted to make, or save, a buck.”

Posted by Lisa Williams at December 15, 2006 8:35 AM   Print


Wow. Way to go Howard. This is a great step into the online community, as opposed to steps other news orgs take out of it when they try to actively shield their content from re-use. Glad to see the CMS is open source, and breaks from traditional online news layout.

Posted by: Ryan Sholin at December 15, 2006 9:05 AM | Permalink

The existence of the (C) is not a problem. In fact, Creative Commons is not "giving up" copyright. Instead, (CC) releases certain rights to the user while retaing a Some Rights Reserved copyright.

Posted by: Kevin at December 15, 2006 11:26 AM | Permalink

The terms of the copyright allow others to use content if it's attributed and linked to the original source, if I'm reading this correctly.

How is this different from what already goes on? Is what already goes on illegal?

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at December 15, 2006 12:30 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Kevin.

Dexter: As I see it, it changes nothing about quoting short passages from the paper. It does mean that quoting longer passages -- even whole articles -- is legal. It would also be legal to grab a photo, or video, from one of these sites, and display it on another site, so long as there's attribution and it's in a noncommercial context.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at December 15, 2006 12:34 PM | Permalink

Releasing copyrights might work in this instance, but what the unique Digital Content Market needs is to actually capitalize on the unique content - and right now that capitalization is sorely lacking in the Digital Media World. The 9thxchange ( will change that, and other techno-wanna-be companies will follow suit, I am sure.
The 9thXchange marketplace is the newest way to bring together buyers and sellers of digital content. The service dramatically reduces content piracy by offering the seller lifetime royalties -- even on exchanges between consumers. Moreover, the service accommodates all technology platforms, file types and creators. I read about The 9thxchange in Crains Detroit recently.
Reg Crandall

Posted by: Reg Crandall at December 15, 2006 3:12 PM | Permalink

Seems to me Gatehouse is getting an awful lot of publicity and giving up very little. As Charlene Li points out, they are using the most restrictive CC license.

Yes, that de-criminalizes some of the "stealing" that is done with impunity of the content from every media company. (BTW, try lifting a couple of graphs from someone else's blog for your blog sometime and watch the legal threats fly.)

But no MSM company actively goes after the people who would be covered by this license. They might take on someone lifting whole pages and trying to sell the content, but they don't sue non-commercial sites. It's not worth the effort and expense. So practically speaking, Gatehouse is giving up nothing.

As for "breaking from traditional news layout," I'll bet the reason the sites look the way they do is that it's the easiest, least resource-intensive way to present content. Having a site for each of 100+ newspapers (even though they are cookie-cutter copies of each other) and a staff of people running them that probably doesn't exceed 10 necessitates that. It's not pretty, and it's not particularly useful.

Posted by: David Poole at December 15, 2006 4:09 PM | Permalink

I have been excerpting lots of non-CC mainstream media content for nearly two years, with the understanding that Fair Use applies. I always link back and/or name the sources, which are usually the Globe, News Tribune, Newton Tab, and the Herald. I've been emailed by some reporters who take issue with what I've written, but never received any request to take down the excerpts.

My question about the new CC licensing of Gatehouse content: Does this mean bloggers who have adsense or other sponsors would be prevented from using this content?

Posted by: Borderline at December 15, 2006 4:16 PM | Permalink

I took a look at your blog, Borderline, and I don't think you have a problem. You quote three or four paragraphs max, attribute, and include a link. Plus, you use the quotes in the context of issues in public interest. I think you're covered by fair use.

What's not covered, however, is stealing an entire story and posting it as part of your site. I've seen many, many bloggers to that. Businesses, too. In fact both Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey, the main candidates for governor in the recent Massachusetts election, did that on their web sites. I don't know why the state's newspapers didn't complain, but they apparently didn't.

Posted by: Dr. Phil at December 15, 2006 4:33 PM | Permalink

Just want to bring your attention to a CC adoption that was made in august 2006 in the main Colombian Journal, this online newspaper brought a CC adoption tool for the citizen journalism section, you can check for more details here

Posted by: carobotero at December 16, 2006 6:57 AM | Permalink

How does this affect RSS feeds, i.e. the freedom to, for example, put up a page aggregating feeds from multiple sites including the TAB?
Presumably this is legal under the CC license; was it legal before? (is it fair use?)

(assume for the Q. that the feed doesn't include the full articles)

(also, kudos and good house-selling luck to Howard.)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at December 17, 2006 2:13 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Anne ... luck, prayers, karama, donations ... I'll take whatever comes our way ... gotta sell the house and get relocated to NY (probably Canandaigua) ... lots of work to do (and all of it fun!)

Thanks for this post, Lisa.

Anne, I think you raise an interesting point, but I don't know too many media (especially newspaper companies) offering full text feeds. Whatever is in a summary feed would, it seems to me, fall under fair use. If you're offering full-feed RSS, then something like CC would probably be a good way of managing how that feed can be used.

Posted by: Howard Owens at December 17, 2006 2:06 PM | Permalink

From the Intro